International Relations The Treaty of Versailles

The conference and the Big Three

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The conference and the Big Three

In January 1919 delegates from 32 countries met in Paris to make peace after the First World War - the peace they hoped would 'end all wars'. The conference was dominated by David Lloyd George, Georges Clemençeau and Woodrow Wilson, the leaders of Britain, France and America, often known as the 'Big Three'.

Delegates from 32 countries met in January 1919, but the conference was dominated by the Big Three - Lloyd George (Britain), Clemençeau (France) and Wilson (USA). The delegations made presentations to them, after which the Big Three made their decision.

Negotiations were difficult. Each of the Big Three wanted such different things, that by March 1919 it looked as though the conference was going to break up.

Lloyd George saved the conference. On 25 March 1919, he issued the Fontainebleau Memorandum, and persuaded Clemençeau to agree to the League of Nations and a more lenient peace treaty that would not destroy Germany. Then he went to Wilson and persuaded him to agree to the War Guilt Clause.

The Germans were shown the proposed Treaty of Versailles. There was no negotiation. The Germans published a rebuttal, arguing that the treaty was unfair, but they were ignored. On 28 June 1919, the delegates met at the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, near Paris, and forced two Germans to sign the treaty.

Expectations of the peace treaty: The Armistice of 11 November 1918 was greeted with great joy. The people of Europe wanted lasting peace, and also to make Germany pay for the damage done, and revenge.

The Germans had expected that the peace treaty would be based on President Wilson's Fourteen Points. The six key principles of the Fourteen Points were:

  1. Setting up a League of Nations

  2. Disarmament

  3. Self-determination for the people of Europe - the right to rule themselves

  4. Freedom for colonies

  5. Freedom of the seas

  6. Free trade

The Big Three expected to base the peace treaty on the terms of the armistice, which were much harsher:

1.German army disbanded, and Germany to give up its navy.

2.Allied troops to occupy the Rhineland.

3.Reparation for damage done and war losses.

What did the Big Three Want?

Wilson's aims:

  • To end war by creating a League of Nations based on his Fourteen Points.

  • To ensure Germany was not destroyed.

  • Not to blame Germany for the war - he hated the Guilt Clause.

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